Authored by K. Thor Jensen in Careers and Employment
Published on 06-18-2009
Of all the service industry careers, bartending is perhaps the most glamorous. The bartender is always the center of attention, and in many ways controls the fate of the evening for everybody that steps in their bar. If you ever wanted to make like Tom Cruise in Cocktail and mix drinks for a living, this simple guide will bring you up to speed on everything you need to know.
Unfortunately, training yourself how to bartend in your home is not a particularly feasible proposition. The bartender’s craft involves a great number of spirits, mixers and accoutrements, and hands-on practice is essential in learning how to prepare a perfect drink. Thankfully, many decent-sized cities do have trade schools for bartenders. A typical class will be an intensive session of two-hour lessons, five days a week, for a month. The high-pressure world of bartending will be replicated in your final examination, in which you will have to perfectly compose a set drink order in a short period of time.
The sheer number of drinks that you will be expected to learn may seem overwhelming. That is why every aspiring bartender should buy a copy of the professional bartender’s guide to study in their leisure time. This useful handbook gives measurements and recipes for hundreds of cocktails, including which glass to use and how to make it stronger or weaker. Although the majority of your time is going to be spent mixing the same two dozen drinks over and over again, it’s always useful to have a varied playbook so no customer is ever turned away unsatisfied.
Once you’ve mastered the skills, it’s time to find a place to ply your trade. When you begin bartending, you may seem somewhat overwhelmed. For your first job, try to find a bar that will enable you to get some on-the-job training working with a more experienced hand. Learning from someone with more experience in the business will help you pick up techniques for dealing with customers – from when to give a buyback to a regular to how to get a belligerent alcoholic out the door without violence.
Bartending is not just preparing libations – it’s also customer service. And life as a bartender means that you will have to empathize with some of the most bizarre problems you’ve ever heard. For many regulars, a bartender is a substitute therapist, and if you want to do well, you’ll need to learn how to listen.
Getting a bartending job can be quite difficult, no matter how well you are trained. It is an extremely competitive marketplace, and you will need to make yourself stand out from other applicants. In addition to your skills, you will need to demonstrate your personality to your co-workers. Once you’re finally behind the bar, you can expect a pretty nice life. Bartenders take home a very nice salary in cash from their tips at the end of the night. Many actually live off tips and just bank their cash into savings to avoid paying too much in the way of taxes. For that money, you will be working hard. Ten hour shifts are not unheard of, and the hours can make it hard to date and meet family obligations.
Best of luck in your bartending career!